February 29th, 2008
06:56 AM ET
12 years ago

Bush jabs Obama over Al Qaeda comment

 Bush criticized Obama Thursday for his comments at a recent debate.

Bush criticized Obama Thursday for his comments at a recent debate.

(CNN) - President Bush is often reluctant to talk about the presidential race, but he couldn't resist weighing in on Democratic candidate Barack Obama's remark this week about Al Qaeda camps in Iraq.

"That's an interesting comment," Bush said at press conference Thursday. "'If al Qaeda is securing an al Qaeda base - then yes?' Well, that's exactly what they've been trying to do for the past four years.... That's one of the challenges we face, is denying al Qaeda a safe haven anywhere."

The comments are in reference to an answer Obama gave at Thursday's Democratic debate, when he said he would redeploy troops to Iraq if al Qaeda was successful in establishing bases there after the U.S. withdrew.

"I believe Senator Obama better stay focused on his campaign with Senator Clinton, neither of whom has secured their party's nomination yet," Bush added.

Bush's remarks echo those of GOP candidate John McCain, who on the campaign trail Wednesday sharply criticized Obama for his comments at the debate, and suggested the Democratic presidential frontrunner wasn't aware members of Al Qaeda are already in the country.

"I have news for Senator Obama, al Qaeda is in Iraq and that's why we're fighting in Iraq," McCain said Wednesday while campaigning in Texas. McCain's press office also released a statement Wednesday stating, "Is Sen. Obama unaware that al Qaeda is still present in Iraq, that our forces are successfully fighting them every day, and that his Iraq policy of withdrawal would embolden al Qaeda and weaken our security?"

Obama sharply rebuked those comments, saying at a campaign rally Wednesday, "Well first of all, I do know that al Qaeda is in Iraq. That's why I've said we should continue to strike al Qaeda targets. But I have some news for John McCain, and that is that there was no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq."

Bush declined to talk about the White House race further in his press conference Thursday, saying "there will be ample time to discuss whoever their candidate - the positions of whoever their candidate is."

Obama issued a sharp response to the president and John McCain, saying both have "called for staying the course with an endless war in Iraq and a failed policy of not talking to leaders we don’t like."

"Americans of all political persuasions are calling for change," he said. "The American people aren’t looking for tough talk about fighting for 100 years in Iraq, because they know we need to end this war, finish the job in Afghanistan, and take the fight to al Qaeda."

Related: CNN Analysts say Bush criticism will help Obama

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

soundoff (698 Responses)
  1. Andy, New York, New York

    In a hypothetical question as to whether after withdrawing US troops Obama would send the troops back into Iraq if chaos erupts, Obama said if Al Qaeda successfuly establishes bases there and chaos erupts, he will re-send the troops.

    Let's get this straight! It was a hypothetical question that sought to test Obama's judgment and courage on whether, as President, he would authorize the use of military force. And his answer proved he had the judgment and courage.

    On the point of sending troops back into Iraq, this has to be taken in the context that tUS roops were withdrawn, in the first place, to the mutual satisfaction of coalition members and Iraqi authorities. The situation on the ground would have had to be normal enough for the Iraqi authorities and security forces to handle, even if there were residues of sleeping Iraqi insurgents or Al Qaeda terrorists.

    Once that scenario has been obtained, withdrawal can take place. But what Obama needs to clarify is whether he will go for a complete US withdrawal or will allow for small US military presence, just in case, as is the case in the DMZ in South Korea.

    Bush and McCain, both of whom I support, and Hillary, whom I loathe, have all voted for the war that is now highly unpopular because there is no clear exit strategy; is costing taxpayers 9 to 12 billion dollars a month, and has so far claimed 3900 American lives – not to mention those who survive with loss of body parts.

    Obama, who was against the war from the get-go, is now up against three well known public people who disagree with him, but he has popular support on the war issue, on which he comes out ahead of all three if anyone questions his foreign policy and military action judgement.

    February 29, 2008 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  2. Jacqueline Samms

    Shut up Mr. Bush.

    February 29, 2008 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  3. LIZ

    President Bush is absolutely right about Al Quaeda–they are in Iraq and there are sleeper cells right here in our beloved country. Maybe Obamas' charisma can wow them like ...

    February 29, 2008 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  4. Please leave.

    Hillary please drop out so the real contest can begin. Bush needs to get on his horse and ride off into the sunset. What a dummy. McCain needs to pack his bgs and get ready to go to the retirement home. Judgment is everything. Obama has that. He will get my vote every time. Go Obama!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 29, 2008 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  5. The Analyst

    Crusty – you seem typical of the misogynistic support that Obama is picking up – well temporarily I believe. Come November many will switch their prejudices elsewhere.

    February 29, 2008 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  6. From The West

    WHAT A FRESHMAN.. he has alot of on the job training to get if elected. Al Qaeda is not planning on ever giving up.

    February 29, 2008 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  7. John paul

    George bush is a mad man, i know he will critize obama coz, he is a black man, old cargo like hillary clinton critize obama, old and urgly mccain critize obama simple he is a black man.
    U all will rot in hell

    February 29, 2008 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  8. Frank

    An administration in disgrace and denial!!

    February 29, 2008 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  9. Jack Jodell, Minneapolis, MN

    Bush is the LAST person on earth who should be putting his worthless 2 cents in on ANYTHING! The idiot didn't even have a clue that we may soon face $4 per gallon gasoline prices, and he's paid to be on top of such things. OBAMA IN '08!!!

    February 29, 2008 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  10. wycliffe

    Bush to the Bushes. worst president ever in American History critizing a man of integrity and intelligence to know that the war was phony and need to be stopped.

    February 29, 2008 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  11. cox

    OK first of all Obama is not going to save the United States and turn everything around. As every candidate they all promise how the future will be so much better if you vote for them. Obama does not have what it takes to lead United States anywhere except back to the fear of more terrorist attacks. Democrats as always try to win buy standing for everything that's ruining United States abortions same sex marriages. I mean come on people this isn't a perfect world where if you put a democrat back in the White House PUFF everything is better. Stop getting caught up in all the hoopla and come back to reality. Stop expecting the sky to part and a miracle occur because of a Democrat President.. Your lives are not going to change that much sure there saying everything some people like to here. But talk is easy doing the job of President of the United States is not.

    February 29, 2008 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  12. look byond

    Way to go Mr. President.
    We love our childrens'. We love our country.
    God Bless America.

    February 29, 2008 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  13. Brandon

    Obama is right. Al Queda in Iraq is not the same al-Queda that attacked us on 9/11. They are a homegrown (Iraqi) resistance movement dominated by the most radical islamists in Iraq.

    If anyone is paying attention, these people are being crushed, not by us, but by the Iraqis themselves. Ever heard of the Awakening councils, Concerned Citizens, ect. The Iraqis hate AQI more than they hate us, and they will never let AQI take over. 60% of Iraq is Shia for God sake.. Iraq will never be dominated by AQI if we leave. Do some research and get a clue people.

    February 29, 2008 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  14. MB

    Before people complain and profess to know why the US is there, they should read the book -Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (written by Steven Coll-Pulitzer Prize Winner). Everyone should know the events that got us to this point. Its extremely interesting and eye opening. Obama is wrong...

    February 29, 2008 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  15. Fundamental Question

    What has Obama done in Senate to bring Democrats and Republicans together?

    February 29, 2008 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  16. Kathy from Michigan

    All we need from George is for him to tell his friends at Diebold to make voting machines that provide a paper reciept. The ATM machines they make do that just fine!!! Further, I have NEVER heard reports of them giving too much money away. Ohio is already having problems with their voting system, thankfuly people are voting early.

    Yes, George felt the need to weigh in, but thankfully his time is winding down. If someone wants to reference SNL – remember when they had the skit that said Dick Cheney was the smartest man in Washington, because he let GW wake up everyday and still believe he was the President? Well, we have followed Cheney, Pearl, and Rumsfield's "Plan for Democratization of the Middle East" written back in the early 1970's to the T. General Colin Powell recognized it and he ws the Odd Man out. He has said that he supports talking with those with whom we do not agree. I trust HIm!!! Not Bush, Cheney and McCain.

    February 29, 2008 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  17. Ron

    First question to ALL of America..Are you better off today that you were just 4 uears ago. I am willing to bet at least 70% would say a resounding NO. Two..FEAR is the MOST POWERFUL and MOST DANGEROUS emotion of the human condition. This is the ONLY tool this President has EVER used effectively. Here is what mores of us need to think about. Do we want to allow Islamic Extremist dictate the course of the "worlds most powerful nation". The President took out Saddam who was potentially a problem, but he was bottled up very well. We are now in the process of NATION BUILDING which this very same President said he did not believe in during his candidacy. The war will cost us trillions of dollars and NEWS FLASH once we leave Iraq NO ONE knows what will happen!! The reality is even with all the effort, lives, and money that has been spent the odds are 50/50 this attempt to make Iraq a democracy will be successful. Unfortunately we will not know the real results until a year or two after the troops leave. Then and only then will the Iraq population will be able to determine their own destiny.

    February 29, 2008 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  18. Steven

    The Democrats in Congress gave President Bush the authority to go into Iraq. Kennedy, Kerry, Daschle, etc. all voted to give Bush the authority. These same Democrats are endorsing Obama..Change??

    February 29, 2008 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  19. Anonymous

    I know I always feel better after hearing from our fearless leader. He's as right about gas as he is about everything else. After watching him yesterday, I was reminded of that photo of him holding hands and kissing the the leader of that other great democracy, Saudi Arabia. But, if we give Exxon just a bit more of that "corporate welfare", all will be well here at home.

    February 29, 2008 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  20. julie

    I think the question is ,what does president Bush know about senator Obama that we dont?

    February 29, 2008 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  21. Colvin

    What a MORON... they are establishing bases due to his inept, incompetent bungling of the Iraq war.

    February 29, 2008 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  22. steven

    Kerry, Kennedy, Daschle have all endorsed Obama. These same Democrats gave President Bush the authority to go into Iraq–Change??

    February 29, 2008 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  23. Tim

    I support Obama and just want to say, I do not condone some of the remarks here about Senator Mccain and Senator Clinotn. They are both decent human beings with significant accomplishments in their records. Being born on a military base should not disqualify him nor should being a woman disqualify Mrs. Clinton. Their poor judgment on Iraq, however, is another matter.

    February 29, 2008 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
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